“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8, ESV).
My society is body image crazed. No one thinks exercise is pointless. Even those who reject the practice believe in its value. I don’t really need to preach its benefits. In fact, Paul helps me preach something different. Training towards godliness is better, because internal health is better than external health.
But I think a false dichotomy is often created. Does not physical activity sometimes lend to heightened godliness?
Exercise isn’t all about bodily image. In fact, for me, exercise has little to do with looks, and more to with the heart and the brain.
First the heart, as in the literal heart. I want to serve Jesus as wholeheartedly as I can for the duration of my life. Making deposits into a retirement account in a man’s early years benefits him later in life. I know decisions I make today will impact me later. When in the next stages of my life I want to have as much health and strength as I can. Much of this is not in my control. But some of it is. I pray I will have a cardiovascular system that is strong for the work God has for me.
Second the brain, as in the mind. This is the benefit of exercise I think most people forget. As a pastor, much of what I do is knowledge based. Problem solving, thinking doctrines through, and processing stressful information are vital to the pastoral job. Exercise greatly aids this endeavor. Stress lowers. Sermons coagulate. As a man, I am better when I’m regularly exercising. Lord knows my daily work is pretty sedentary. I’m not swinging a hammer. So getting the heart rate up is a decision I must make, because no one else will make the decision for me.
Sometimes Christina will say, “Go for a run.” It’s code for, “You’re cranky. Go work it out.” She’s right. Sometimes all I need is to run those toxins out of my system. It is physical activity that connects to my mental and spiritual health.